On Friday, July 29th, 2011, Vans Shoes and FYF Fest took a warehouse and skate park in Greenpoint near the East River and turned it into the ‘House of Vans’, a free concert space holding events throughout the summer. House of Vans (QRO venue review) returned for a third year on Thursday, June 27th, with Fucked Up, Title Fight, and Hop Along, for a show that, while it had some pitfalls, brought the punk back to Brooklyn.
Well, one pitfall. As a summer space without a liquor license, House of Vans cannot sell drinks, but free beers are provided by Heineken for the RSVP-only events (surprisingly the shows are not 21+, but all ages with 21+ wristbands). Those free beers usually run out during the main act, or even before, which is understandably to keep people from getting too wild, especially as House of Vans often puts on the wilder acts (it also limits the appeal to people ‘only there for the free drinks’, a crappy crowd at any event). However, the drinks ran out especially early this time – all over House of Vans. The beer tent in the regular area (actually in the separated outside skate park, on the other side from the indoor stage, with a 21+ divider in between) ran out of drinks during the very first act. It lasted a bit longer in the VIP area (which also had sangria), but was likewise gone long before the headliner took the stage. And it even ran out backstage – backstagers like musicians Tim Harrington (of Les Savy Fav – QRO album review) and Har Mar Superstar (QRO photos) could be seen in the VIP area, looking for drinks in vain…
The music started with just singer Frances Quinlan of Hop Along on stage, who joked that she’d fired her band, before the rest of them joined her after a song (she also later apologized to a “Dan” for screwing something up during a song). A bit more indie-rock than the punk rock that was to follow, Hop Along still delivered nicely. Title Fight came on looking tired, but singer/bassist Ned Russin had tons of energy as he swung his axe around. By the time their set ended, the crowd had figured out that there were no more drinks to be had, seeing a number of them leaving, which was still a surprise considering the headliner that was to follow: Fucked Up.
The Canadian outfit has received mega praise in recent years, such as getting ‘Album of the Year’ from SPIN for 2011’s concept album, David Comes To Life, and winning their country’s prestigious Polaris Music Prize (which includes $20,000 – Canadian) for the preceding Chemistry of Common Life – especially impressive given their less-than-mainstream friendly name, plus that they play hard punk, with lead singer Damien Abraham screaming at the top of his lungs virtually from start to finish. Some of the acclaim for their recorded output must surely have come via osmosis from their stellar live shows like at House of Vans (or at that very opening of House of Vans two years ago – QRO review), which saw a large & quickly shirtless Abraham spending nearly all of his time in the photo pit or even in the crowd (and showered the crowd with bottled water during his rare times on the actual stage). He was also incredibly funny, from remembering to text his pissed-off wife to jokingly playing the song his child wrote, which is just him saying “I love the word penis” over-and-over again – but he also had a song about how he fears he will be a bad father because he tours so much, “Daddy”. It all brings to mind no one so much as… Tim Harrington, who similarly strips down & jumps in early & often at Les Savy Fav shows (while the rest of both bands play on, non-plussed – QRO photos). They even have a similar build (large & hairy) and look (bald guys with beards). If you were in the VIP and saw Harrington, it would have been easy to just think, “Oh, there’s Abraham” – indeed, during Fucked Up’s set, Harrington (unprompted) called Abraham his “twin…”
There was a smattering of rain outside, with a threat for more, which brought House of Vans to considerately open their doors early and let in the long line that was outside – though perhaps that was why the drinks ran out so early. Or maybe they just weren’t prepared for how big, how much of a must-see, shows are there (the online RSVP maxing out in a few hours maybe should have been a heads-up…). Whatever the case (of beer, or beer belly…), it was a raucous kick off to another raucous summer at House of Vans.